Introduction: Small Parts/Hardware/Tool Storage Cabinet Solution
I'm a sucker for ORGANIZATION! I am a big proponent of everything having a designated space or home in my workshop. Since my shop is a place that I seek solace and quiet enjoyment, It's important that it be organized and tidy. If it is not then anxiety sets in and that is counter-productive.
For this purpose, the theme of many of my projects this year will be Organization. I'm always looking for more efficient ways to not only store tools, but also small parts and hardware. That's where this project comes in. I purchased a few storage trays from Harbor Freight. They are small, slim and have a handle and snaps to keep them closed. I thought the grab and go method would work well. I wanted a place where they could all be kept, and I thought a small cabinet of sorts would be a good idea. In this project, I set out to do just that. It was an easy one-day-build that I hope you like and will build for yourself.
Tools Required for this project:
*Table saw or circular or jig saw with edge guide
*Domino, biscuit jointer or drill for dowels (or brad nailer, depending on joinery method)
Materials Required for this project:
*Dominos, dowels or biscuits (depending on joinery)
Step 1: Designing the Cabinet
I always like to start a project by sitting down at my assembly table or workbench and sketch out a design by hand. This helps me to visualize the project and the end result. I began this project by doing just that. I had 5 of the trays but intend to purchase more so I designed this cabinet to house 6 trays. The overall design was simple: a few slots for the trays to slide into. The case is constructed of a nice grade of veneered plywood as I had some scraps left over from my last project. The dividers are made of 3/16" hardboard or masonite. The case has some hardwood edging to hide the plys on the sheet goods to set the piece off, also made of scrap wood. The installation method will be a French cleat to hang it on the wall very easily and make it just as easy to remove if necessary.
The measurements will depend on the trays you select for this project. If you use the same trays I did I've supplied a sketch with the measurements I used. If you use different trays, you'll need to measure and build accordingly
Step 2: Cutting the Plywood and Dados
Once I have the overall design laid out, now I turn to cutting the plywood panels for the sides and top and bottom of the cabinet. It is important to leave them oversized at this point because design changes may call for adjustments to be made.
I cut the panels down on the table saw. If you do not have a table saw, then you could use either a circular or jig saw with an edge guide to ensure straight cuts. Then I turn to cutting the dados. Dados are slots cut partially into the plywood. I use a dado stack on the table saw (blades stacked together on the arbor to cut a wider slot). If you don't have a dado stack, you can do the same thing by adjusting the fence in small increments to achieve the width of slot you desire. I cut a slot just slightly larger than the thickness of the divider material which was 3/16" thick. Cut 2 or 3 slots then rotate the panel and cut the remaining ones from the other end. This prevents the panel from getting away from you and is a safer method.
Step 3: Adding the Hardwood Edging
Whenever I use plywood in a project, I like to add a strip of hardwood on the edge. This does two things: it hides the plies on the sheet good and it adds a measure of strength to the panel. In this case, it is more decorative than anything. I like my shop furniture to look nice and not like it was simply thrown together.
A scrap piece of cherry was selected from the scrap bin for this project. It offers a nice contrast to the birch veneer on the plywood. I rip strips from the scrap piece down to 3/8" thick by just slightly over 3/4" wide. This will allow for the strip to be slightly proud of the surface of the ply and it will be sanded flush to the plywood face.
Glue the strips on the edge of the plywood using a sufficient amount of glue and spreading it out. I like to use blue painter's tape to hold the strip in place along with a couple of edge 3 way clamps.
Step 4: Trimming Panels Down to Size
Once the hardwood edging is glued in place, the panels can now be trimmed down to final height. I do this on the table saw using a cross-cut sled. It is a safer method and provides a nice clean 90 degree cut. Blue painter's tape is recommended in this step also to prevent tearout on the veneer.
If you don't have a cross-cut sled, consider building one. However you can also use a miter gauge with an auxiliary fence attached. I suggest cutting through the hardwood edging first to ensure a clean cut.
Step 5: Cutting the Dividers and Back Panel
As I mentioned previously this project utilizes hardboard or masonite as the dividers. It's thin, durable and will provide adequate strength for these small tray organizers. I trim the hardboard to width on the table saw then cut multiple dividers out of the one strip. Cutting them all out of one strip ensures they are all the same width and length.
Step 6: Selecting the Joinery Method
There are multiple joinery methods that could be employed in this project. Some options are dowels, biscuits, dados, or even glue and brad nails. I chose the domino which uses floating tenons. They are quick and easy and provide excellent strength to the project. I lay out the placement of the mortises and cut them using the domino. Take time when laying out your joinery as this will prevent issues during assembly.
If you do not have a domino, you could use a biscuit jointer, or a drill and dowels. You could even use a drill and dowels.
Step 7: Dry-Assembling the Cabinet
This step is critical. It helps to ensure everything is laid out as planned. Any issues or errors made in placement of joinery for instance will bubble up to the surface and any necessary adjustments can be made at this time. The last thing you want is to be in the process of gluing up a project and run into issues that are not easily resolved.
Step 8: Sanding the Pieces
Another important step in any build is sanding. It's probably the least favorite step of every woodworker but in a plywood project sanding is critical. I sanded with 120 grit advancing to 220. I used the a random orbital sander and you should not press down much at all but allow the sander to do the work. The veneer on most plywood is fairly thin so you must be careful during this step. Sanding prepares the surface to accept the finish. With inadequate sanding, the plywood will absorb a lot more finish causing the grain to stand up requiring much more sanding in between coats.
Step 9: Applying the Finish
For the last couple of build projects, I've been pre-finishing the pieces prior to assembly. For a project such as this, pre-finishing makes the assembly go easier and no worries about finish pooling up in the corners. I utilized a Minwax product on this cabinet, it's an oil-modified water-based polyurethane. It goes on easy and the clean-up is simple: warm soapy water. I used an artificial bristle brush to apply the finish because a foam brush can have a tendency to snag the fine fibers of the plywood. I applied two coats on this shop-furniture project sanding lightly with 400 grit sandpaper by hand between coats.
Step 10: Performing the Final Assembly
Once all the pieces are dry, the final assembly process can be completed. Having glue, dominos, a damp cloth, dead-blow mallet and glue spreader handy is important. Apply a liberal amount of glue in the mortises or holes depending on type of joinery and along the glue lines. Insert tenons or dowels and begin to assemble. Move quickly and use a dead-blow mallet to assist. This will prevent marring the piece during this process. Clamping is important as well to ensure tight glue joints.
Step 11: Installing the Cabinet
The final step is to install the finished cabinet. A French cleat is ideal for this type of project. This is simply installing a piece of plywood with a 45 degree bevel on the top aiming point away from the wall. Install a similar mating cleat inside the back of the cabinet. I recessed the cleat on the cabinet so it would mount flush to the wall.
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